Andres Gonzales isn’t just the guy with the sweet handlebar mustache — he has game, too. He shot a course record 10-under 62 in the opening round of the second stage at Bayonet in Seaside, CA, last week. Andres finished at 13-under and placed third to easily qualify for next week’s final stage of the tedious three-(sometimes four)-part Q-school tournament, where the field of 156-ish will battle to secure their PGA Tour card.
While Andres was navigating through Vegas traffic on his way to PGA Tour player and ’10 Turning Stone Resort Championship winner Bill Lunde’s house, he recounted his “easy” 62, which he capped with an eagle on 18.
“Everything I hit was inside 15 feet,” said Andres, who has been a close friend since we met at Joe Thiel’s Golf School when we were 14. “Every putt I hit went in the hole–well, almost–I missed three putts inside 15 feet, otherwise I made everything. I didn’t even hit it that great. I missed five greens that day.”
Wait, you missed five greens and shot 10-under? How did you do that?
“On the other greens you hit, you make those putts,” he replied with his usual playful sarcasm.
“It’s scary to see how good our field was because 5-under missed the cut for final stage,” said Andres, who won the ’05 Scratch Players Championship, a premier amateur event, at Bayonet. “No one thought the number was going to be 7-under going into it.”
Like dozens of others in next week’s 156-ish field, Andres, who has played primarily on the Canadian Tour the last few years, is practically a Q-school veteran. After he graduated from UNLV, where he was teammates and roommates with fellow Washington State native Ryan Moore, Andres went to pre-qualifying for the first stage in ’06. The last two years he made it to the second stage before getting eliminated. In his second attempt in ’07, he made it to the final stage, but finished 120-something by his recollection.
This year is different, though–both his game and mentality are in a better place.
“I’m really just trying to enjoy golf,” said Andres. “My game has always been there. I’m hitting it a lot better off the tee — something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I’ve been all over the map and scrambled my way around. That catches up to you after a while.”
(This is the part where I told him that he sounded like a PGA Tour drone and to cut it out.)
Instead of spending Thanksgiving with his family in Olympia, WA, he’s staying in Vegas to practice for the six-day marathon at Orange County National.
“[My wife] Kristen told me not to,” Dres said. “She said she’d love to see me, but didn’t think I’d feel prepared if I went home, so she encouraged me to stay in Vegas. I thought about it and realized she was right.”
As for as how he’s getting ready for the grueling final stage, it’s simple — he already feels much more prepared with some experience behind him.
“Last time I went in, I was all googly eyed and I just played scared,” said Andres. “I thought I had to shoot 65 every single round. I was firing at pins the entire time. I changed the way I played last time as opposed to just playing golf–it’s the same game, the hole is the same size. I’m just so excited to go back.”
And don’t worry about him feeling the physical wear and tear of the six-round tournament.
“People complain about how long it is and stressful — yeah, it is stressful, but fatiguing? Come on! We’re playing golf. My first time to finals everyone was like, ‘Make sure you get your rest! It’s a long week. Don’t hit too many balls.’
“Everybody says just pace yourself. For what?” Andres continued half-jokingly. “How tired can you get? It’s golf. You’re not even carrying your own bag!”
Andres also has a good attitude since he’s in a win-win position. Even if he places DFL, he’ll have conditional status on the Nationwide Tour next year. (The top 25 and ties secure win their PGA Tour card, the next number nearest to 50 receives fully exempt status on the NWT and the rest get conditional status.)
“For me, not having any status this year, I’m on a free roll,” said Andres. “I have more status next year just going into final stage than I did all of this year. The way I’m looking at it right now, I’m just going to play golf. At the end if I play the way I know I can, I’ll be on the PGA Tour in two months.”
Screw objectivity. I’m excited for Andres and looking forward to watching him play (and cheering quietly from the sidelines) next week. I mean, how can you not? Just look at that ‘stache!